In 1918 and 1919, the Spanish flu (a deadly strain of avian influenza), a viral infectious disease killed at least 17–50+ million (estimate) people worldwide, and it infected 500 million people - one-third of the world’s population. The global economy was affected along with the health of people across the globe. The lack of communication in the absence of technological advancements resulted in tremendous damage.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified SARS-CoV-2 as a new type of coronavirus in early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China. COVID-19 or coronavirus disease 2019, is the official name for the acute respiratory disease. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across all the borders. The spread of the COVID-19 is a fluid situation that is changing day by day, and even by the hour. Currently, there are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 coronavirus. As a result, the only way to contain the disease is through testing, isolation and contact tracing. 

Image source - pixabay

Companies and researchers have already started to use Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Cloud technologies to fight with the COVID-19 coronavirus. A World Health Organization (WHO) report said that AI and big data are a crucial part of the response to the disease in China.

Here are some ways companies and researchers are turning to machine learning solutions to detect and our fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

1. In the early weeks of February'20, Yonghe Cardinal Tien Hospital, a major hospital in Taiwan, developed a “2-in-1” detection device that continually scans for normal body temperature and wearing required masks for individuals who are entering into its lobby.

- The interesting thing is that within two weeks - the solution on Microsoft Azure together with a local IoT partner was developed and launched. The IR temperature detection system and AI mask built with Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services.

- It helps to build modules around their proprietary databases in less time and deploy trained AI models to an IoT Edge module for real-time image analysis via Power BI. Also, system alerts are available through Azure Bot services to notify authorities immediately about real-time monitoring.

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2. BlueDot, (a health monitoring firm that specialises in infectious disease surveillance) had first identified the emergence of a virus that would come to be known as COVID-19, nine days before the World Health Organization (WHO) released its statement alerting people to the emergence of a novel coronavirus.

- BlueDot predicted an impending outbreak of coronavirus using Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and an AI-powered system. 

- On Dec 30, they alerted clients including various governments, hospitals, and businesses against travelling to danger zones like Wuhan, China.

3. High-performance computing (HPC) is playing a crucial role in our fight against COVID-19 coronavirus to support the essential need to discover a vaccine. High-performance computing (HPC) and supercomputers to run complex mathematical models, which transform vast volumes of evolving COVID-19 coronavirus data into simulations of biological and chemical processes.

4. COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, CORD-19- Over 4 million data scientists from the Kaggle (world's largest machine learning and data science community owned by Google Cloud) came up with advanced AI models. That helped companies and researchers to understand more about the spread of the epidemic with precision and helped develop a variety of data mining and text mining tools.

5. DeepMind, the AI arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, has released a deep-learning library called AlphaFold. Which uses neural networks to predict how the proteins that make up an organism curve or crinkle, based on their genome, potentially shedding light on which drugs could work against COVID-19.

6. Computed Tomography (CT) image analytics - on average for a COVID-19 coronavirus patient, there are more than2,000 CT images taken during hospitalisation. Manually reading and comparing image data for each patient is not that easy. AI can be supported by quantitative analysis and speed up analytics to adjust treatment plans on time.

Here are the top 15 ways Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Cloud technologies are being used to address the coronavirus outbreak and fight with it:

  1. Forecasting on how the COVID-19 coronavirus cases and deaths will spread across cities and countries
  2. Monitoring how the COVID-19 coronavirus and lockdown is affecting mental health
  3. Detecting the outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and
  4. Minimise fatality and optimise disease management
  5. Speed up in drug discovery and development, that target the virus
  6. Chatbots to help in COVID-19 coronavirus diagnosis and share information
  7. Tracking the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and people flouting quarantine orders
  8. Helping to find the best candidates for a vaccine against the decease
  9. AI-based systems to enforce social-distancing
  10. Robots deliver food, sterilise, supplies, and perform other relevant tasks
  11. Drones deliver medical supplies, helping to monitor lockdown compliance aerial spray, and disinfection
  12. Speed up to process healthcare claims
  13. Helping to identify non-compliance or infected individual
  14. Spotting signs of COVID-19 coronavirus infection in medical images
  15. Helping to diagnose the COVID-19 coronavirus and making diagnosis more effective

Fortunately, we have Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine learning (ML), and Cloud technologies at our disposal to identify outbreaks, slow its spread, and more.